How to Tackle


So you want to play American Football as a defensive player and wreck havoc?

The first thing you have to learn is how to tackle the ball carrier.

Here is a detailed explanation of how…


Give 100% effort – Be prepared to give your best effort at all times

Confidence – Expect to make your tackles. Don’t think about the consequences if you miss.

Controlled Aggression – Football is a violent sport. If you don’t want to play a violent game, play soccer. Tackle with controlled aggression.

Mind-set – You are a heat-seeking rocket, shot out of a cannon. Search and destroy your target.

Responsibility – Realize you have a responsibility to your team to make every tackle you can.

Fun – Don’t let your responsibility to your coach and team sap your confidence. Remember football is supposed to be fun and you cant be second guessing yourself every time.

Have a Short Memory – If you do happen to miss a tackle, don’t dwell on it. Go make the next one!


Narrow Stance - Many football players start in a two-point stance with their legs too far apart. This slows down their first step and forces them to take an extra step. Keep a low center of gravity, but place your feet close together, so your first step can be with burst and direction.

– Make sure your eyes are tracking the football on every play, so you can find the ballcarrier.

Pursuit Angle – It is very important that you accurately calculate speed and maneuverability to determine the correct pursuit angle, otherwise, you will never have an opportunity to make the tackle.

Evading Traffic – Stay low and use all your physicality to fight through traffic. Use your hands to keep blockers from contacting your core and gaining control of the block


Stay Low – Keep your butt down, it will make changing directions faster, as well as making it easier to tackle your opponent low and with your shoulder, as you should.

Head & Eyes Up – Keep your head up, so you avoid spearing, which is illegal and can injure your neck and also so you can track the ball & accurately determine pursuit angles.

Target Belt – Target your tackle at the belt-buckle of the ballcarrier. Do NOT target your tackle based on ball placement, or the head or feet of the runner. The ball can be easily shifted and head fakes, or quick feet can be deceptive in regard to the location of the runner.

Head in Front – When intercepting a runner moving to your right or left, make sure you get your head in front of the runner to help cut off their forward progress.

Tackle through the Player – Don’t expect to tackle a player by stopping at the player. Run through, or run over the player, with your expected stopping point a yard or two behind the runner.

Use your Hands – Too many players, even at the NFL level put their shoulder into a runner with some speed and power and think he will go down. These runners are giving maximum effort too. If they can bounce off a shoulder or jump over a low shoe-string tackle and keep going, they will. Use your hands to wrap up runners to ensure that they stop when you hit them.


Additional Players – Use your peripheral vision to keep track of other players on both teams. The runners teammates are obstructions to your goal. Your own players are also potentially dangerous to you, if they are streaking in for a big hit and you unwittingly get in the middle.

Legality – Make good choices. Remember under many circumstances a face-mask, spear, or dog-collar tackle will get your opponent to the ground, but the ensuing penalty is often worse than if you hadn’t made the tackle at all.

Boundary Awareness – Allows you to use the boundaries as an additional defender. If you box a runner in against the boundary lines, it helps you cut off their avenues of escape.

Make a Statement – Let your actions speak louder than words. Try to tackle with violent power that will send a message to your opponents that you mean business and also make ballcarriers think twice about totting the rock in your direction.

Clock Management – Quarterbacks need to have excellent clock management, but tacklers need to have clock management too. As a tackler, you have to realize that if the other team is only has a short amount of time to score, the ball carrier is likely to run out of bounds, thus saving them time and giving them more opportunities. In these circumstances, you must have the additional obligation of preventing the ball carrier from getting out of bounds.


Control – Remember that as a tackler, your first responsibility is to get the ball carrier to the ground, but also remember that your secondary responsibility is to try to cause turnovers so you can get the ball back for your team, giving them additional opportunities to score and taking those opportunities away from your opponents.

Ball Location – Be aware of ball location. Is it in the left hand or the right? Is it well secured or is the runner carrying it like a loaf of bread? Once the tackle is assured, that ball becomes the secondary target.

Techniques – Be well versed in techniques to jar the ball away from runners and create turnovers. Some of these techniques include the punch, the rip, spearing the ball with your helmet, or even the de-cleater, hitting the runner so hard that they can no longer control the ball.

By Evan Marquisee

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